Wednesday 29th April is Stop Food Waste Day – a key annual date in the calendar as we as a nation try to reduce our environmental impact and be kinder to the planet, but possibly especially important at the moment, owing to our need to shop less frequently.
Many of us lead busy lifestyles which can impact our ability to plan properly, increase our reliance on convenience or takeaway foods, and can often see us reaching into the fridge at the end of the week to a rather sad-looking, mouldy cucumber and a questionable-looking pack of beef several days past its use-by date.
Not to worry – meal planning can be a really beneficial way to ensure you’re cutting down on your food waste, saving yourself some money and ensuring you’re always eating wholesome, healthful meals. Here are our tips!
Start relying on store cupboard essentials
Your store cupboard essentials are called that for a reason – they can stay in your kitchen cupboard for a long time. Think: beans and pulses, rice, pasta and noodles, canned tomatoes, canned fish, couscous and quinoa, porridge oats, nuts and seeds, herbs and spices, oils and much more!
The idea behind these essentials is that you can start to form the basis of many meals using these brilliant ingredients. While you’ll need to add in fruits or vegetables for a rounded meal, there’s plenty of protein, carbohydrates and fats available in your store cupboard essentials, before you even turn to your other foods. If you’re basing your meals around these long-lasting items, you’ll find that there’s less room for other foods to go off, therefore reducing your waste!
Build up your frozen food selection
Many might assume that frozen fruits and vegetables are less nutritious than fresh, but that’s not accurate. Frozen fruits and vegetables are often frozen within hours of being picked. Fresh fruit and vegetables on the other hand are picked and shipped across the world, meaning that the ones you pick up in the supermarket may have been picked from the plant days ago, and chances are, it’ll sit in your kitchen for a few more days. While it’s not to say that fresh fruits and vegetables are bad – and you should be including them in your diet – the fact is that frozen fruits and vegetables contains all the same benefits – AND they’ll last a lot longer, too, making them ideal when preventing food waste.
Make a meal plan
Before you go shopping, spend half an hour sitting down to decide who you need to buy for and what meals you need to make – for instance: breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for mum, dad and two children for seven days. Planning your meals this way means that you can decide exactly how much of a certain food you’ll need to buy and will therefore be less likely to over-buy at the supermarket leading to waste later in the week. Not only that, but if you know that you’ll have some chicken leftover from your recipe on day one, you can plan to use chicken in your meal on day two as well, meaning that you save yourself money by not buying lots of different types of food.
If you know that your life gets busy, it might be worth prepping your meals at the beginning of the week. There are different levels to meal prepping.
You could chop the vegetables you’re using and store them in air-tight containers with water in the fridge to keep them fresh and moist. You could cut up, season or prepare your meats, beans or pulses and store them in airtight containers as well. This will help to save you time when you come to make the meal later, as all you have to do is throw in the prepared ingredients and cook.
Alternatively, you could prepare the whole meal and keep it stored in an airtight container in either the fridge or the freezer until you’re ready to eat it. Then when you’re in a pinch you’ll have a healthy, pre-made meal you can simply reheat without having to resort to the takeaway menu!
Although we all want to reduce our food waste, there may simply be times when it can’t happen for one reason or another. In order to help do your bit for the planet in this case, why not invest in a compost bin?
Putting food straight into your regular waste means that it doesn’t have access to the air it needs to break down properly. This means that it sits taking up much more space than it should in landfill and can take years and years to decompose. Having a compost bin with an airtight lid in your kitchen means that it won’t smell. You can either compost this in your own garden with the help of some online guides, see if your local council takes compost waste with your normal bin collection or find places to compost near you.
Do you have any other tips to help prevent food waste? We’d love to hear them in the comments below!